April 8, 2019
Thus far, the Washington Nationals' bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster. Imagine a town devastated by a tsunami, a forest fire, and a hurricane all at once. For the first nine games of the 2019 season, they have an ERA above 10. In four of the Nats' five losses, the deciding runs were scored in the late innings of the game. Of course, most painful have been the unnecessary losses when the Nationals had been leading in the latter innings: March 30 (NYM 11, WSH 8) and April 6 (NYM 6, WSH 5). But even in two of their four wins, the bullpen likewise gave up multiple runs. For example, in yesterday's game against the Mets in New York, the Nats enjoyed a comfortable 12-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, whereupon the Mets scored five runs. The home team almost pulled off a miracle in the ninth inning, scoring three more runs, but ending up losing, 12-9. Another near-disaster for the Nats: on April 3, the Phillies scored four runs in the eighth inning to tie the game, but the Nats won on a "walk-off walk" with the bases loaded, as rookie Jake Noll refrained from swinging to get his first major league RBI. As a "reward," he was sent down to the minors, making way for Howie Kendrick on the active roster.
So who's to blame? At the top of the list would be Trevor Rosenthal, the former star relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, has faced nine batters this year, and every single one of them has reached base. Until yesterday's game, where he walked one batter and hit the other with a pitch, every one of those batters ended up scoring. His ERA is currently infinity, and after he (presumably) gets his first out of the season, his ERA will drop to something like 186. Hard to believe. He is coming off from Tommy John surgery, so it's understandable that he needs a period of adjustment, but still...Other hapless Nats relievers include Joe Ross (81.00 ERA), Tony Sipp (15.43 ERA), Wander Suero (15.00 ERA), and Matt Grace (13.50 ERA). The other Nats relievers, Kyle Barraclough and Justin Miller, have ERAs in the "normal" range.
On the positive side, the Nationals won consecutive games for the first time this year, winning 9-8 on Wednesday and 4-0 on Thursday, bouncing back to .500. They took two out of three games in New York, but with tonight's loss their record is back down to 4-5.
These nine games don't mean all that much, but if the Nats don't end this month at least with a winning record, grumblings about the evident persistent lack of leadership will arise once again. Dave Martinez knows his job is on the line, and it's up to him to make the highly talented pitching staff perform according to expected standards.
Mike Zurawski recently alerted me to some photos of the new artificial turf at Chase Field (see azcentral.com), showing that the thin dirt path between the mound and home plate is gone. But guess what? I noticed a slight discrepancy with my diagrams, as far as the position of the bend in the grandstand near first (and third) base! So I set about fixing that, and while I was at it made a couple other tiny changes to the Chase Field diagrams. One significant consequence is that foul territory has shrunk, but I haven't done a calculation of that just yet.
And just for the record, I made a couple very small corrections to the Kingdome diagrams after the update was announced on April Fool's Day. No foolin'!
In other sports, the University of Virginia Cavaliers are currently in the NCAA Men's Basketball championship game (at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, hailing from Lubbock, Texas. Go Cavaliers!!!